It sounds like a good idea, right? After all, if the government suspects they me be a dangerous terrorist, who in their right mind would want to let them buy a gun?
WATCH LIST HAS PROBLEMS AS IT IS
We’re constantly reminded by the media that the “Terrorist Watch List” or “No Fly List” is always preventing elderly grandmothers, toddlers and infants, housewives and prominent business men from flying to their destinations. I actually compiled a short list of prominent persons who were prevented or detained based on these lists while writing a research paper last year on the Rule of Law in Post 9/11 America. Take a look:
- John Williams, famous film composer (Harry Potter, Star Wars, Super Man, Indiana Jones, etc)
- Nabih Berri, head of Lebanese Parliament
- Evo Morales, President of Bolivia
- Ted Kennedy, politician, detained five times in East coast airports in March, 2004
- Naomi Wolf, Writer
- John Lewis, Georgia Congressman
- Usef Islam (“Cat Stevens”), singer
- Nancy Oden, Green Party leader
- King Downing and David Fathi of the ACLU
- Prof. Walter F. Murphy, Constitutional scholar
- Nicolas Maduro, Foreign Minister from Venezuela
- Chaplain James Yee, US Military
- Lieutenant Colonel William H. Steele, US Military
Based on the urgings of some anti-2nd amendment fanatics, none of these persons would have been permitted to purchase or possess a firearm.
The lists themselves are a touchy subject, because we do want to feel safe, and we certainly want the government (with all its money, power, and technology) to keep an eye on the “bad guys”, but at the same time, we’re not told how these determinations are made, and with the errors that pop up, it really does seem that the list is quite arbitrary.
Do we really want a secret list that arbitrarily takes away our freedom to travel also put in control of our right to bear arms?
FIREARMS ARE RARELY USED IN TERRORIST ATTACKS
There is no evidence that firearm ownership has any significant tie to terrorism. In fact, when ownership is viewed against violent crime statistics, it’s clear as day that places that oppose lawful ownership (Washington D.C., Chicago, California) have far higher incidences of violent crime than those areas which encourage gun ownership, and that violent crime has consistently increased in the period of time after strict anti-ownership laws were enacted.
That’s not to say that terrorists never use guns. The Fort Hood shooter was a terrorist and he used firearms to carry out his deeds. It is important, however, to note that he would not have been (and was not) on any sort of significant terror watch list; had he been, I would suspect his access to the military facility would have been denied. Keep in mind, he was a soldier when he committed his act of terror. The government issued him guns.
It is probably also important to make a distinction between firearm possession and firearm use in committing a crime. The law, in most cases, treats commission of a crime while in possession of a firearm about as severely as they would treat a commission of a crime using a firearm. While I understand the necessity of this to a certain extent, such additional prosecution is based largely on the “what if” of a crime, and not on the actual act. There was allegedly a firearm in the car of the Times Square Dud terrorist when they found it at the airport. You have to wonder about the “what if” and “why” … would he have shot someone who was trying to stop him or was that so he could kill himself if he was being pursued? If it wasn’t fired (or even brandished), was it even relevant to his crime of terrorism? Not really.
Over-all, however, foreign and domestic terrorists on our soil or attacking our outposts have nearly always used bombs. The WTC was bombed prior to 9/11, Oklahoma City was bombed, the Times Square Dud was a bomb.
As has been stated numerous times – and is an inevitable point anytime the gun-control debate springs up, an attacker doesn’t need a gun to attack. A suicide will accomplish their goal regardless the means. Taking guns away from law abiding citizens because of the “what ifs” does nothing to deter criminals from owning firearms.
IT IS A DANGEROUS PRECEDENT
Remember Executive Order 9066, signed by FDR in 1942 which used another government watch list to systematically round up anyone of Japanese descent and toss them into concentration camps? America was worried that anyone who was Japanese would be sympathetic to our enemies in the war. There were very few, if any, legitimate reasons for this fear, but the round-up played on the fear and anger of the American people, particularly in areas where there were high concentrations of Japanese (The West coast). Non-Japanese Americans were often jealous or angry that Japanese Americans owned plots of land and were successful farmers and business owners. In much the same way Hitler played similar anger toward those Jewish citizens in Europe into what grew to become the Holocaust, FDR, at the suggestion of lobbyists and certain other politicians signed the order requiring the mandatory relocation of Japanese Americans.
Race and ethnic background are not the only targets of such movements. On October 27, 1838 Gov. Lilburn Boggs of Missouri signed an executive order calling for the exterminations of all Mormons. Other violent actions have been taken against other religious groups, against other races, and against homosexuals and other “identity groups”.
The reasoning of those who supported such actions seems illogical in hindsight, but in the moment, when existing prejudices are inflamed by emotion and growing popular sentiment, such dramatically stupid acts seem like the right thing to do.
Our Constitution is set up to provide fairness. In a court, the victim and the criminal are both given lawyers and a “voice” before a judge. We supposedly abide by an “innocent until proven guilty” code that is woven through all our laws. We require proof. Sometimes this means a criminal is successful before he can be put away, but generally the freedom of the innocent is supposed to outweigh that.
Putting a person in a prison because of their skin color, religious belief, or consensual adult sexual activities is a more visible example of injustice, but when injustice sneaks in the back door – taking away the freedom to travel, the right to own a firearm, the right to privacy – it’s the same thing, only taken slowly and stealthfully. It’s harder to say, “we’re locking you up because we don’t like you”, but when smaller rights are removed one after the other, it’s easy to take that last little right away without much resistance or notice, and the same goal is accomplished.
WHAT TO DO
Firearms are already heavily regulated in the United states. Contrary to all the propaganda about “loopholes and gun shows” and all that, you have to produce forms of ID and have your information run through a national database before you can buy firearms. The average person can’t buy grenades, machine guns and other such items without a lot of money AND special approval from the ATF (i should say some things you just CAN’T buy). You can’t bring your weapon across the border into Canada or Mexico, or a lot of states even. Firearms and ammunition are taxed, you DO appear in databases when you buy it, and the government CAN find you fairly easy (despite the lies about the Tiahrt amendment).
The debate is littered with lies. Mexico drug lords do not, for example, obtain their firearms from American citizens who bought them at the local gun shop. Legal gun ownership actually lowers incidence of violent crime. Most gun owners are incredibly safe – and certainly they know better how to safely own and maintain a gun than Hollywood and political groups would have us believe! Most hunters are active conservationists.
We waste time and money when we focus on preventing terrorists from owning guns. It’s a sort of wild goose chase, since few use guns to commit their terror, and firearms ownership is not a valid identifying characteristic.
We need to find the identifying characteristics and use those to determine who to follow. It’s been pretty clear that domestic terrorists have tended to be anti-government and often “militia”. When both those factors are combined, maybe they should be investigated. If nothing turns up, fine. It’s also been pretty consistent that foreign terrorists tend to have spent periods of time training in terrorist countries. many of them (including the Times Square Dud bomber) are the children of known former terrorists.
Perhaps that’s a good clue. If they associate with terrorists or are the children of known terrorists, they should not be allowed to fly and they should not be allowed to own firearms. We should also monitor their communications …